The Different Paths of Hofstra’s Senior Duo

Hofstra celebrated Senior Day in style with a 73-40 romp over the College of Charleston Wednesday evening. Lucky for the Pride, the game didn’t interfere much with the recognition of their seniors. In fact, it allowed them an opportunity to shine one last time in front of the home crowd.

Moussa Kone attempts a free throw vs. James Madison
Moussa Kone saved one of his best career performances for Senior Day. His 14 first half points matched all of Charleston at the break.

For Moussa Kone and Dion Nesmith, their destination was the same, but their paths were as disparate as possible. Yet, their individual stories represent the varied nature of the game itself. Each player encountered twists and turns along their journey, but those trials came in diverse fashions.

Kone represents the rock Hofstra’s program has been rebuilt upon. The longest-tenured member of the Pride, Kone has seen more ups and downs with the program than anyone, yet has remained loyal throughout. Even as the CAA itself experienced upheaval with four programs departing and two more joining during his tenure, Kone has remained a fixture.

Recruited by former head coach Mo Cassara, Kone began his career at Hofstra in the 2011-12 season during which the Pride went 10-22 with a 3-15 record in CAA play. Things only got worse the following season. In the fall of 2012, Hofstra suspended four players for their role in a string of on-campus thefts. The suspended players included three freshmen and one sophomore, all underclassmen along with Kone.

“It was a lot of up and downs during my first couple of years here,” Kone said. “As soon as the coaching change happened and the first time I spoke to coach Mihalich, I believed in everything he wanted to do, the way he wanted to change the whole organization and make the basketball team as good as it was before. That was one thing that encouraged me to keep Hofstra in my blood.”

The scandal did little to help Hofstra’s on-court performance, as their record dipped to 7-25 overall and 4-14 in the CAA. Following the disastrous year, the Pride moved on from Cassara and brought in current head coach Joe Mihalich from Niagara to help rebuild the program.

Mihalich brought more than a rejuvenated attitude with him to Long Island, he also brought something even more important: a hoard of quality players. Some of the more high profile names, including Juan’ya Green, Ameen Tanksley, and Brian Bernardi, were forced to sit a year after joining the program with Mihalich. However, Mihalich also brought in a guard from Monmouth who was able to help the team immediately: Dion Nesmith.

While Kone represents the stabilizing force of a player who spent his entire career at a single school, Nesmith represents the transfer student who is becoming all the more common in college basketball. His story actually began on the football field at Northeastern, but Nesmith has made the most of his opportunity to continue playing basketball as a graduate student.

“It’s incredible,” Nesmith said, reflecting on his journey. “Getting to know coach Mihalich was one of the big reasons why I came here. It’s been one of the best seasons of my life. I’ve had a great time these two years, playing great basketball.”

Nesmith spent his first two years of eligibility playing basketball at Monmouth. Though they were his first two years of play, those were in fact his junior and senior years academically. Nesmith averaged 8.8 ppg in 2011-12 and 8.1 ppg in 2012-13 in a starting role for a Hawks team that never gained much momentum.

In his first year of graduate eligibility last season, Nesmith finished second on the team in scoring with 13.3 ppg and led the squad with 4.2 assists per game. For his efforts, Nesmith was awarded a spot on the All-CAA Third Team.

Photographer: Zack Lane, Hofstra University Photographer) Hofstra head coach Joe Mihalich alongside seniors Moussa Kone (left) and Dion Nesmith (right) following the Senior Day win
Hofstra head coach Joe Mihalich alongside seniors Moussa Kone (left) and Dion Nesmith (right) following the Senior Day win (Photo courtesy: Zack Lane, Hofstra University)

Now that the remaining group of transfers has been able to see action on the court this season, Nesmith’s numbers have dropped, but his role could not be more important. He was averaging 10.3 ppg and 2.7 apg entering Wednesday’s contest, but his role as a leader on the squad has been invaluable.

“I’m so happy they had a game like they did tonight,” Mihalich said. “Both individually and as a team, that we were able to win that way”

During Wednesday’s festivities, it was Kone who was the brighter star. The forward notched his fifth career double-double with 16 points and 10 rebounds while shooting 8-11 from the field. His 14 first half points matched the entire output of the Charleston side.

“It was just crazy,” Kone said of his first half. “It just felt like I had that kick. I was going good, shots were going in, and it just so happened that I had the same amount of points as the other team.”

The program’s stalwart soldier and the experienced transfer who brought in new life. Kone and Nesmith not only represent Hofstra basketball and the topsy-turvy four years the program has gone through – they represent the best of both worlds. The promise of stability, and the excitement of new blood.

No matter their background, one thing is certain: This pair has paved the way for a new era at Hofstra.

Vincent Simone covers Quinnipiac, the MAAC, and Hofstra for Big Apple Buckets. You can follow him on Twitter @VTSimone.

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